Cape Town Little Miss Turtle

Wheelchair accessible Cape Town

Wheelchair accessible Cape Town.

A beautiful and wheelchair-friendly dream destination.

 

What comes up first to your mind when you think of Cape Town? Table Mountain, the African penguins, V & A Waterfront, Signal Hill, Lion’s Head, Green Point Stadium, Muizenberg, Camps Bay, breathtaking landscapes, surfers, sharks, whales, baboons and much more – welcome to South Africa!

 

Table Mountain View from Bloubergstrand

Table Mountain View from Bloubergstrand

 

Cape Town Helicopter View

Cape Town Helicopter View

 

I’ve already been to Cape Town once before, back in 2013. For three days only, but anyway, that was still enough time to fall in love with this amazing city! To celebrate my brother’s master’s degree, I decided to surprise him and to take him on a trip to Cape Town with me. So, on March 5th our adventure began! We flew with British Airways from Munich to London and from there to Cape Town. The flight took about 11 hours and went smoothly. Once arrived at the airport, we went to Europcar Car Rentals in order to get the car I’d already booked in advance. The next twelve days on the beautiful Western Cape flew by much too fast! We discovered so many incredible wheelchair accessible spots I’d like to share with you!

 

A map of the all the places we visited in Cape Town and the surrounding areas

A map of the all the places we visited in the Cape Town area

 

General Accessibility

Cape Town and the surrounding areas are pretty wheelchair accessible. Almost all major tourist attractions provide a good service for wheelchair users. Most importantly, I always found wheelchair accessible restrooms. There surely are things to improve, like high pavements, but basic accessibility is given. Most people we met were very friendly and always offered to help.

 

Table Mountain seen from Signal Hill

Table Mountain seen from Signal Hill

 

Wheelchair Accessibility Check – Cape Town

 

Wheelchair accessible 

Bloubergstrand

Boulders Beach Penguin Colony

Camps Bay Beach Promenade

Canal Walk Shopping Center

Cape of Good Hope

Cape Point – Table Mountain National Park

Cape Wheel

Chapman’s Peak Drive

Citytour Sightseeing Bus

Fish Hoek

Glen Beach (Victoria Parking)

Green Point Park

Hout Bay

Muizenberg

Ou Kaapseweg

Signal Hill

Simons Town

Table Mountain

Two Oceans Aquarium

V & A Waterfront

Waterfront Food Market

Less wheelchair accessible

Cape Point Ostrich Farm
(steps at the entrance)

Chimp Haven
(bumpy pathways with pebble stones)

Drakenstein Lion Park (sandy/bumpy pathways)

Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden
(some very steep paths)

Long Street – Cape Town
(high pavements)

 

Not wheelchair accessible 

Llandudno Beach
(but still there’s a wheelchair access sign!!!)

Scarborough Beach

 

Where we stayed

The A Tuscan Villa Guesthouse in Fish Hoek was our home for the first 6 nights. One of the rooms is completely wheelchair accessible – the Boulders Room. There’s enough space for a wheelchair user and the spacious bathroom is just perfect with its roll-in shower. The beds are height-adjustable to fit different needs. The owners, Anita and Jeremy Rice, are very friendly, helpful and caring hosts. The breakfast buffet was delicious including freshly prepared fruit salad, pastries, cereals, porridge, toast, cheese, yoghurt and a cooked English breakfast. Fish Hoek is in the near of Boulders Beach with its African penguins as well as the Cape of Good Hope, Muizenberg, and other famous spots, so therefore it was a perfect “home base” for us. See for yourself:

 

 

For the second part of our holiday we moved closer to the Cape Town City Center and stayed in a wheelchair accessible AirBnB-apartment. I have to admit that the accessibility could have been better, especially the bathroom was not perfect for wheelchair users. However, with the help of my brother everything went fine.

 

Stay tuned

There soon will be follow-ups with detailed information about the wheelchair accessibility of almost all major tourist attractions in and around Cape Town, for example Boulders Beach, the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway as well as the Victoria & Albert Waterfront. So come back soon…!

 

Have you already been to Cape Town or do you plan to travel there? Please let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below or by sending a private message. I promise to answer in person :-)!

TOKYO Skytree Skyline

Visiting TOKYO SKYTREE in a wheelchair

TOKYO Skytree – The Basics

TOKYO Skytree is a broadcasting tower in Sumida, Tokyo. It is one of Tokyo’s most popular landmarks. TOKYO Skytree (634 m) is the world’s highest broadcasting tower and also the second tallest building on earth after Burj Khalifa in Dubai. The Skytree was finished in 2012 and is located near the traditional borough of Asakusa. The two observation decks offer a unique view of Tokyo and on very clear days you can see Mount Fuji. There is also a large shopping mall, called TOKYO Solamachi, with great food courts, a Planetarium and an Aquarium.

The TOKYO Skytree itself and its surroundings are perfectly wheelchair accessible with many accessible restrooms and elevators.

 

 

How to get there

Oshiage Station and Tokyo Skytree Station serve the TOKYO Skytree and the TOKYO Solamachi shopping complex.

  • Oshiage Station is served by Tokyo Metro Hanzomon Line, Toei Asakusa Line and Narita Sky Access Line
  • Tokyo Skytree Station is served by Tobu Skytree Line

 

My TRAVEL TIP for you:

From Asakusa Station you can either walk/roll to the Tokyo Skytree (1.4 km/20 min.) or you change for the Tobu Skytree Line which will take you directly to the TOKYO Skytree Station within some minutes.

 

The entrance to Tokyo Skytree is on level 4F.

 

Entry Fees for Persons with Disabilities

Disability SignTokyo Skytree offers reduced entry fees for disability card holders (card must be written in English or Japanese).

I paid 1.540 Yen (about 12 EUR/13 USD) to access both, the Tembo Deck (350 m) and the Tembo Galleria Deck (450 m) which is a great deal. The regular price for an adult for both decks is 3.090 Yen (25 EUR/26 USD). Here you can save 50 %!

The following link provides you with detailed pricing information: http://www.tokyo-skytree.jp/en/reservation/

Scroll down to the end of the page to see the ticket fees for disabled people. There’s no need to book your tickets in advance as disabled visitors can skip all waiting lines.

 

My TRAVEL TIP for you:

If you should encounter problems when asking for the reduced entry fee at the ticket counter, ask for the ticket sales manager! When I wanted to buy my ticket, the sales agent had no clue that there is a special rate for disabled visitors, although the special rate was displayed on the price chart right behind the sales desk.

 

The Tembo Deck (350 m)

View of Tokyo from Tembo DeckAfter buying the tickets, a guide will lead you to the elevator waiting area and you can skip the crowds. The TEMBO shuttle, Japan’s fastest elevator, takes you up to the 3-level Tembo Deck within 50 seconds. From the Tembo Deck upper floor (F350) you have a very nice all-round view of Tokyo. On the middle floor (F345) you find the SKYTREE Shop and the Sky Restaurant 634. The glass floor on the lowest level (F340) might give you some extra-thrills. It also accommodates the SKYTREE Café.

Of course you can also find wheelchair accessible restrooms on all three floors.

The Tembo Deck can get very crowded, so make sure to come either early in the day or at least 1.5 hours before sunset.

If you want an even more spectacular view with less people, I can highly recommend going up to the Tembo Galleria Deck on 450 m. You can buy your tickets at the counter on F350.

 

The Tembo Galleria Deck (450 m)

When the elevator opens on floor 445 and you take a first glimpse of the view you’ll surely say “WOW!”. Spectacular. Amazing. The glass structure gives you the impression to walk out in the sky. The sloped circuit leads you up to the highest point of 451.2 m (Sorakara Point) and finally back to the TEMBO shuttle which will bring you back down to F345.

 

 

There is also a wheelchair accessible toilet, maybe the highest accessible toilet in the world!

We went up to the Tembo Galleria to watch the sunset. It was amazing to see the contours of Mount Fuji as the sun was going down! While I was watching the sky turning red, I was in total inner peace with myself and I forgot everything else around me.

Personally I think that paying the extra fee for Tembo Galleria Deck is totally worth its price! You can stay as long as you wish to and enjoy the beautiful bird’s-eye-perspective of Tokyo.

After our visit, we went to the TOKYO Solamachi food court and had a very good dinner.

 

Summary

I visited the TOKYO Skytree in October 2016 with my mobility scooter and spent a nice day there. TOKYO Skytree is one of the most impressive sights of Tokyo and definitely a Must See. The wheelchair accessibility is just ideal!

 

What do you think of TOKYO Skytree? How do you like the view? Would you like to visit it?

Leave a comment below or send a message to get in touch.

Happy New Year

New Year – New wheelchair adventures

Happy New Year 2017 my friends!

 

Today is the first day of another new year full of fresh opportunities! I’m always curious what a new year might bring along. For now I’ve planned a very nice wheelchair accessible trip with my brother in March. The destination is a surprise and I cannot reveal it yet. But I think you’ll like it as much as I do! Many new wheelchair accessible spots will be discovered soon!

 

THANK YOU to all my lovely readers for your support through your messages and your comments and for following me on my journey!

Have a wonderful year 2017 with much love, health and joy!

 

A new year is like a blank book and the pen is in your hands. It is your chance to write a beautiful story for yourself.

 

Tokyo JR Train

Tokyo Travel Diary – All about Accessibility

Back home since yesterday, my thoughts are still in Japan. It has been my fourth trip to Tokyo and I will always be in love with this city and its mixture of modern technology and tradition. This time I rented a mobility scooter via Marudai Motor Co. which was the best idea ever to get around easily by myself.

 

Happy with the Pikachu Scooter!

The Pikachu Scooter

 

We flew with Air France to Tokyo Haneda Airport on October 22nd and stayed for 13 nights in a nice AirBnB home in Sendagaya. Together with our friend Sue and her two kids we had an amazing time in Nippon. As I stayed for almost two weeks, I decided to write several articles about my experiences in Tokyo. I’d like to start with the most important topic. The accessibility!

 

Accessibility of Tokyo – The Basics

Strolling through the streets of Tokyo

Strolling through the streets.

Tokyo is one of the most wheelchair accessible cities worldwide. The JR-East Railway Company and also the private Tokyo Metro offer an extraordinary well organized service for wheelchair users. The bus system seems to be mostly wheelchair accessible, too. There are ramps and elevators and very good wheelchair accessible restrooms everywhere. You get many discounts (only after presentation of a disability card written in English) for attractions like Ueno Zoo, TOKYO Skytree and the public gardens.

 

  • Mobility Scooter
Together with the team of Marudai Motor Company

Mr Okura and his staff

Renting a mobility scooter was easy and a great possibility to keep my self-autonomy. I found the Marudai Motor Co. on Google and contacted them. The service was perfect and affordable. Mr Okura and his staff, who were both very friendly and kind, delivered the mobility scooter to our AirBnB house on time. I had to pay 20.000 Yen (about 175 EUR or 195 USD) for two weeks.

Mobility Scooter Certificate from Marudai Motor Company in Tokyo

The Certificate

I think this price is very reasonable. I got some instructions but as I already use my Red Devil at home, I knew exactly how to drive this sweet litte scooter. The rental company handed me over a certificate saying that I officially rented the scooter and that it is permitted to use it on JR-East Trains as well as on the Metro. If you come with your own scooter you might encounter some problems. Mobility scooters are still very rare in Japan. It seems that mobility scooters are not yet accepted as mobility devices for disabled people. The certificate though made everything possible!

 

 

JR-East Trains and Tokyo Metro

When we had to take the JR (almost daily), we went to the station’s wheelchair counter to ask for help. I always presented the certificate to the staff. The service agent accompanied us to the train track and installed a mobile ramp to get me on the train. Once arrived at our destination, another service agent already waited for me to help me out of the train with the ramp. The agent also showed us the way to the exit. We really enjoyed this excellent VIP service because the stations are huge and can get very crowded. The JR-East Japan Railway Company has high service standards for people with disabilities. Travelling with JR-East is a real pleasure!

 

 

I wondered if JR-East offers a discount for disabled but the agent at the customer service desk explained that a discount is only applicable for Japanese disability card holders and only on demand. Isn’t it funny how a disability kind of „disappears“ when crossing borders? But anyway, the question was worth to be asked. One of the private metros offered a discount which was very kind. The Metro service agent told us to purchase a ticket for children and so we saved 50 % of the regular price.

 

Tokyo is worth a visit – especially as a wheelchair user!

I really like the amazing Japanese sense of service and perfectionism.

 

In the next blog post I’ll tell you more about things to do and see in Tokyo!

Airport Trouble

Some weeks ago I took a flight leaving from Nice/France to visit my friend Nina in Cologne/Germany. The flight was leaving at 12:45 pm. As always when I take the plane, I was picked up by Francy, a close friend, two hours before departure. Usually there’s plenty of time left when we arrive at the airport. But not this day…!

 

We wanted to park at a special parking in the parking lots for handicapped. Next to these lots there’s a telephone booth from which you can call the service assistance for passengers with reduced mobility. But actually this day there was a stand of Mercedes AMG installed on the parking lots for disabled and the whole area was blocked by barriers. Luxurious, powerful, prestigious cars everywhere! Francy decided to not obey by opening the barriers. We passed through and saw that the telephone booth was completely out of service. An Airport employee came straight to us and we were rudely asked to immediately leave. He didn’t even take time to listen to our explanations and obviously didn’t care at all. The man turned and walked away while I was asking where else we could park.

 

The thing is that my friend can’t lift me due to some back injuries. I felt sad and angry about this guy’s arrogant behavior and about the fact, that luxury cars are obviously more important than offering accessible parking spaces. I asked my friend to drive elsewhere.

 

We decided to go to the security guys, whose job it is to open and close a gate directly in front of the terminal’s departure area. It is possible for people with reduced mobility to park there for 30 minutes as I know from my own experience. I showed my disabled parking permit but this time the guards wouldn’t let us in. For what ever reason. As I started to speak to one of the guards he did neither look at me nor was he listening to what I said. My friend was very angry. Suddenly I felt so tired by these people’s ignorance and their “I don’t care”-attitude… The feeling of not being respected grew in my heart. Personally I am not used to be treated that way. Most of the time I am treated attentively with kindness.
Anyway… Time was ticking, so my only concern was to get my flight. Too much time had already been waisted with our attempt to park. We stopped at another car park. Luckily a friendly passerby was willing to lift me out of the car into my wheelchair! His gesture of kindness made me immediately feel better. Thank you, dear stranger! Francy took me to the counter, I got my flight ticket and a service assistant was called to help me through the security check.

 

Finally flying to Cologne

Finally flying to Cologne

I was boarded only 5 minutes before the flight was leaving. The Eurowings Crew was very welcoming and they even upgraded me. Once when all doors were in flight, I finally took a deep breath and made myself comfortable. The airplane took off and all the stress of the past one and a half hour was left behind. I was so looking forward to meeting my German friend who I only knew through Facebook and Skype!
A new adventure was up to come!
Up in the air

Up in the air

Thank you for (not) travelling with Deutsche Bahn

 

Yesterday I wanted to make my first reservation ever with Deutsche Bahn (the German railway). But I had to find out that still in 2016 it is more than complicated to travel by train when using a wheelchair.

 

Of course I’d read all the information on how to travel with reduced mobility on the website of Deutsche Bahn to be perfectly prepared. You have to call their mobility service when you need help to get in and off the train and/or if you have to change trains on your journey. And this service also books the wheelchair seats for you. I assumed that nowadays, in 2016, travelling would be much easier than it was 20 years ago… I was wrong.

 

My very bad idea was to first buy my tickets (like every other passenger) and then call their service hotline to ask for the mobility service.

 

Lady on the phone: „What!? You’ve already bought your tickets? That wasn’t a good idea as you should always call us first to make sure that there are still some wheelchair seats available!“ I asked myself why that wasn’t written on their homepage.

 

The woman was quite nice on the phone and she told me that the wheelchair seats for my chosen trains were unfortunately booked. She patiently checked all other possible trains and connections on that day for more than 45 minutes. But nothing – what a frustrating experience! The worst was that I’d bought these tickets for me and my friend as we had planned to travel together. The service assistant advised me to cancel them as we couldn’t take these trains without free seats.

 

Can you imagine that Deutsche Bahn offers only 2 wheelchair seats per train?!

 

After explaining that this would have been my first trip with Deutsche Bahn and that I had absolutely no idea of calling the mobility service before buying the tickets, she luckily transferred the call to her colleague who cancelled the tickets for free. Normally, you have to pay a fee of 17,50 Euros for each ticket cancelled. This favor was very kind!

 

But still I have to say that 2 wheelchair seats per train are simply not enough. Every human being, disabled or able-bodied, should have the possibility to take the train easily and spontaneously! In France taking the train is much easier than in Germany. I can go directly to the train station and take the next train whenever I want to. Without making any reservation before. The same thing in Japan (to be continued) and so many other countries. I have to say that I’m a little bit shocked as Germany is a well-developped country serving as role model for so many European neighbours. But accessibility of travelling by train is clearly a big point to improve!

 

PS: I guess I’ll risk my next attempt in 10 years ;-).
Air France Airbus A320 Paris CDG

Nice surprise at Paris CDG Airport

I lately took a flight to Paris CDG Airport together with my boyfriend. After landing, a nice disability service assistant helped me to leave the airplane. He lifted me back into my wheelchair and accompanied us all the way to the arrival zone. At the exit, he asked us what we would do next. I replied that we would go to our hotel and that no more help was needed as we came here often and knew how to get to our destination.

 

The service assistant wasn’t satisfied with my answer and kept on asking where we would spend the night. His insisting way of interviewing us was very uncommon – I really didn’t know how to deal with it! It made me feel slightly uncomfortable. My boyfriend replied that we would sleep in a hotel at Roissy, not far from the airport. The service assistant then wanted to know the exact name of the hotel. “Okay …”, I thought, “Why is this guy so curious? What might he be up to?”. But friendly as I am, I told him where we would stay, with a slight note of impatience in my voice.

 

Finally he informed us, that there was a free shuttle service especially for disabled travelers and that he would call this service right now to take us directly to our hotel. “Why didn’t he tell us right away about it?”, I asked myself with a sensation of relief. The assistant explained that he had been doing the assistance job for more than 20 years and he only wanted to make sure that we would reach our hotel without any trouble. He continued that he took his job very seriously which I confirmed noddingly.

 

As a frequent wheelchair traveller, I regularly fly to Paris CDG. However, no one had ever mentioned this shuttle service before. So in order to make this very involved assistant happy, I decided to give it a try for the next morning. The service shuttle picked us up at our hotel at 07:30 am. It felt like being some kind of VIP as we were the only 2 passengers. We were back at the CDG airport within 10 minutes. What an unexpected surprise! I’ll surely take advantage of this great shuttle service again!